Artist, Curators Refuse to Open Israel Pavilion at Venice Biennale Until Ceasefire Deal

A visitor walks next to the 'Las Meninas a San Marco' sculpture part of the installation by the Spanish artist Manolo Valdés, at the San Marco's Square during the 60th Biennale of Arts exhibition in Venice, Italy, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
A visitor walks next to the 'Las Meninas a San Marco' sculpture part of the installation by the Spanish artist Manolo Valdés, at the San Marco's Square during the 60th Biennale of Arts exhibition in Venice, Italy, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
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Artist, Curators Refuse to Open Israel Pavilion at Venice Biennale Until Ceasefire Deal

A visitor walks next to the 'Las Meninas a San Marco' sculpture part of the installation by the Spanish artist Manolo Valdés, at the San Marco's Square during the 60th Biennale of Arts exhibition in Venice, Italy, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
A visitor walks next to the 'Las Meninas a San Marco' sculpture part of the installation by the Spanish artist Manolo Valdés, at the San Marco's Square during the 60th Biennale of Arts exhibition in Venice, Italy, Tuesday, April 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

The artist and curators representing Israel at this year’s Venice Biennale have announced that they won't open the Israeli pavilion exhibit until there is a ceasefire in Gaza and an agreement to release hostages seized by Hamas on Oct. 7.

Their decision, praised as courageous by the festival’s main curator, was posted on a sign in the window of the Israeli pavilion on the first day of media previews, ahead of the Biennale contemporary art fair opening on Saturday.

“The art can wait, but the women, children and people living through hell cannot,” the curators said on Tuesday in a statement together with the artist. It expressed horror at both the plight of Palestinians in Gaza and that of the relatives of hostages seized in Hamas' Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

Israel is among 88 national participants in the 60th Venice Biennale, which runs from April 20-Nov. 24. The Israeli pavilion was built in 1952 as a permanent representation of Israel inside the Giardini, the original venue of the world’s oldest contemporary art show and the site of 29 national pavilions. Other nations show in the nearby Arsenale or at venues throughout the city.

This year, the Israeli exhibit has been titled “(M)otherland” by artist Ruth Patir.

Even before the preview, thousands of artists, curators and critics had signed an open letter calling on the Biennale to exclude the Israeli national pavilion from this year’s show to protest Israel’s war in Gaza. Those opposed to Israel's presence had also vowed to protest on-site.
Italy’s culture minister had firmly backed Israel’s participation, and the fair was opening amid unusually heightened security.

Written in English, the announcement Tuesday of Israel's delayed opening read: “The artist and curators of the Israeli pavilion will open the exhibition when a ceasefire and hostage release agreement is reached.” Two Italian soldiers stood guard nearby.

In a statement, Patir said she and the curators wanted to show solidarity with the families of the hostages “and the large community in Israel who is calling for change.”

“As an artist and educator, I firmly object to cultural boycott, but I have a significant difficulty in presenting a project that speaks about the vulnerability of life in a time of unfathomed disregard for it,” Patir said in the statement.

Patir, who remained in Venice on Tuesday, declined further comment. Neither the Biennale organizers nor the Israeli culture ministry commented.

The curators of the Israeli pavilion, Mira Lapidot and Tamar Margalit, said they were delaying the opening of the exhibit because of the “horrific war that is raging in Gaza,” but that they hoped the conditions would change so the exhibit could open for public view.

“There is no end in sight, only the promise of more pain, loss, and devastation. The exhibition is up and the pavilion is waiting to be opened,” they said. For now, a video work made by Patir can be seen through the pavilion window.

Adriano Pedrosa, the Brazilian curator of the main show at the Biennale, praised the gesture.

“It’s a very courageous decision,” Pedrosa told The Associated Press. “I think it’s a very wise decision as well” because it is “very difficult to present a work in this particular context.”

The national pavilions at Venice are independent of the main show, and each nation decides its own show, which may or may not play into the curator’s vision.

Palestinian artists are participating in collateral events in Venice and three Palestinian artists' works are to appear in Pedrosa's main show, titled “Stranieri Ovunque — Foreigners Everywhere,” which has a preponderance of artists from the global south.

Pedrosa, the artistic director of Brazil’s Sao Paulo Museum of Art, said one of the Palestinian artists, New York-based Khaled Jarrar, was not physically in Venice because he couldn't get a visa.



Saudi Royal Institute of Traditional Arts Welcomes Pilgrims with Gifts

The Royal Institute of Traditional Arts distributed special gifts to pilgrims. SPA
The Royal Institute of Traditional Arts distributed special gifts to pilgrims. SPA
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Saudi Royal Institute of Traditional Arts Welcomes Pilgrims with Gifts

The Royal Institute of Traditional Arts distributed special gifts to pilgrims. SPA
The Royal Institute of Traditional Arts distributed special gifts to pilgrims. SPA

The Royal Institute of Traditional Arts has played a key role in this year's Hajj season, continuing its mission to promote Saudi Arabia's rich artistic heritage, in line with the Kingdom's commitment to serving pilgrims, The Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Saturday.

The institute distributed special gifts to pilgrims, prayer rugs adorned with traditional Saudi artistic engravings from across the Kingdom, including those found on Najdi doors, Rawashin, Sadu textiles, and Al-Qatt Al-Asiri decorations, which are testimony to the remarkable depth of Saudi culture and highlight the unique character of Saudi art forms, SPA said.

Each prayer rug comes with a tri-lingual welcome card (Arabic, English, and Urdu) – a thoughtful effort by the institute to introduce pilgrims to Saudi culture and its treasured traditional arts, the news agency added.